Today I want to talk about a show I love to talk about:
I was going to do a Super Bowl article and review the “Super Bowl” episode of this series, but family issues kept that from happening. But I still wanted to do a review of an episode of this show. Since the Super Bowl episode was out, I decided to pick another. I wanted an episode where I could talk about another character rather than Debra because I have said enough about her. Then I remembered the perfect episode. The fifth season hour long premiere known simply as:
“Italy”
The Barone’s were very Italian so a trip to Italy made perfect sense. The whole show actually went to Italy for this episode. But does the episode work?

Plot Summary-Marie announces that she is paying for the entire family to go to Italy. The whole family is excited…except Ray. There, everyone sitesees while Roberts meets a very attractive Italian woman, whose father is not pleased. And Ray mopes. A lot.
Best Line-“Don’t fight here. This is the Colosseum.”…Marie with a great line which was delivered kind of poorly
Nitpick of the episode-I will save my speel on Ray and instead ask a different question. Who thought it was funny to have Debra get hurt by Ray in the end montage? This is after Ray has had a change of heart and he and Debra take in the sites…with him injuring her every step of the way. Was this supposed to be funny???? I love how she has a sling in the montage but it’s gone when they say goodbye at the end. Like the creators wanted to forget that too.
Standout Character-Robert, it’s nice to see him be the happy one for a change
Syndication Edit-The top of the opening scene following up on the previous episode
Episode Fun Fact-I got nothing so will do a lame one. Yes this was filmed on location in Italy.
My Thoughts-Why???? Why did they have to make Ray the jerk of the universe here? Here’s the thing-in the course of the series Ray is not a a bad person. He’s a lazy idiot who makes mistakes, but overall he is a happy person. On the commentary for the episode the creators refer to Ray in this story as “evil Ray”. I think that makes sense. If you have to change the character to make the story work, you have failed!!!
This is the problem with vacation episodes. You can’t just have the cast wandering around you need a story. But it’s hard to come up with one that works within the context of the series. I mean a Tiki curse on The Brady Bunch? A mob fight and car chase when Perfect Strangers was in LA? The Facts of Life getting involved with international espionage? Michelle becoming Disney World’s Princess for the day on Full House? Benson did an episode in Hong Kong so outrageous it would take me forever to explain it. This is why I usually think vacation episodes suck, they are often out of step with the rest of the series and this episode is no exception.
Ray being a jackass for the trip just feels forced. He says he caught a cold from the air conditioner in the van. Sigh, really?? Even Debra is pleasant because she has decided that seeing Italy is worth being stuck with Ray’s parents. In fact, none of the characters feel right especially Ray and Debra who almost switch places. The creators tried too hard with their plot which ruined an otheriwse nice little episode. They should have just done the Ray is clumsy stuff they crammed into the last five minutes, rather than give him a story arc which made no sense. Or since this show is about a dysfunctional family who is always fighting, why not show them fighting like many families often do on long vacations (mine included!). We only get this once, the Collisseum scene, and it quickly goes back to Ray is a jerk again.

 

It’s like the creators were afraid to have the family arguing in Italy so they took all of them out of character for the episode, and as I noted the one hurt the most is Ray. By the time he starts to be happy and enjoy where he is, he’s already done so much whining he just can’t be redeemed. While the first half is ok the episode gets kind of draggy in the second half, with nothing really happening.
On the plus side, there is some beautiful scenary here. And Robert’s story works good, it feels natual and believable. As I said it is nice to see Robert get some good luck. Two episodes later this is undone, but that’s par for the course with Robert. The guest actors are really very good. I also don’t normally like it when a show changes its soundtrack but here the soft Italian music really works.
I will give the creators credit for one thing. Very often a series will do a vacation episode, and the events of the episode are forgotten entirely by the show. Not always, Growing Pains followed up on their Hawaii vacation episode. Roseanne’s Disney World trip changed that show in some big ways. Oh and of course Friends, what happened in London changed that show permanently. But often it is quickly disregarded. Not here, this episode added characters which stayed for the remainder of the series and the events were not forgotten. So, credit for that at least.
Of course there are some worst vacation episodes out there. Some aren’t even episodes but movies. One day I really should talk about the “so bad it has to be seen” Family Ties Vacation where they are in England. Man was that awful!!! Maybe someday.
Grade=B-, beautiful scenery but the episode is an example of how trying to hard to force a story can kill that episode
And yes we will be coming back to this series, but not to soon.

By richb

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